Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Assault convictions affirmed

US v. Thomas:   In this appeal, a federal inmate challenged his convictions stemming from the assault of a female corrections officer at U.S.P. Hazelton. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court.

First, the indictment contained two plain errors, which the government conceded, that count one failed to allege an intent to commit another felony as required under 18 U.S.C. § 111(a) and that count two failed to allege infliction of bodily injury as required under 18 U.S.C. § 111(b). The government contended that while these defects were plain error, they did not "seriously affect the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings," and the Fourth Circuit agreed, finding that the prison guards’ testimony at trial satisfied the elements missing from the indictment.

Next, the appellant argued that the indictment was "multiplicitous," in that a single offense was charged in two counts in the indictment. The appellant relied on the Supreme Court’s decision in Ladner v. U.S., from 1958, in which the Court held that a single shot fired at multiple officers constituted a single offense. According to the Fourth Circuit, courts have applied Ladner in situations where there is more than one act resulting in assaults, not whether more than one federal officer is injured by the same act. Here, the district court determined, and the Fourth Circuit agreed, that Thomas committed two separate acts, the verbal threats and a punch to the guard’s face; thus, the indictment was not found to be multiplicitous.

Additionally, the appellant argued that the district court improperly sustained hearsay objections to his testimony, thereby denying him the ability to adequately present his defense. The appellant stated that the intended purpose of the statements in question went to his state of mind, not to prove the truth of the matter. The Fourth Circuit disagreed, and found that the statements were properly excluded because they were irrelevant and bore no relation to whether he committed the charged offense.

No comments: